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58                    HISTORY OF PERSIA                  CHAP.
of the house of Abbas, which bore the Mowing inscrip-
tion from the Koran : " Permission to fight is accorded
to those who take up arms because they have been
unjustly treated." This remarkable man, destined to
overthrow the Omayyad dynasty and to set the house of
Abbas in its stead, was purchased as a slave at Mecca by
Mohamed, the head of the Abbasid family. Showing
conspicuous ability, he was employed as a confidential
agent, and constantly travelled between Southern Palestine
and his native province Khorasan. It was in consequence
of his reports that active steps were taken. Intrigues con-
ducted with consummate skill resulted in the capture of
both Herat and Merv. Nasr reported that 200,000 men
had sworn allegiance to Abu Muslim, and concluded his
appeal for help against the growing movement with the
following celebrated verses :
I see amidst the embers the glow of fire, and it
wants but little to burst into a blaze,
And if the wise ones of the people quench it not,
its fuel will be corpses and skulls.
Verily fire is kindled by two sticks, and verily
words are the beginning of warfare.
And I cry in amazement, "Would that I knew
whether the House of Omayya were awake or asleep ! "
Merwan attempted to send reinforcements to his Viceroy,
and he arrested Ibrahim, who henceforth disappears from
the scene ; but Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar, Ibrahim's
brothers, escaped to Kufa, where they were protected and
remained in hiding.
Meanwhile Kahtaba, the able general of Abu Muslim,
had twice defeated Nasr, at Nishapur and again at
Gurgan. Worn out and a fugitive, Nasr fled through
Rei and died before reaching Hamadan. Kahtaba, follow-
ing close behind, entered Rei, defeated the Caliph's army,
which had marched up from Kerman, and took Nahavand.
He then avoided Ibn Hobaya at Jalola and descended into
Irak. The Syrian General, however, forestalled him and
fell back on Kerbela. An encounter followed near that
city, when Kahtaba defeated the army of the Caliph but
lost his own life. Under his son, Ibn Kahtaba, Kufa was